Dancers, Let Your Hair Down

As dancers, we demand a lot of our bodies, our minds and our emotions. From dancing all day and night, to thinking about dancing all day and night, we are constantly processing difficult information of a physically demanding world.

We must take the time to care for ourselves.

Here are some ways to be kind to your dancing body:

Let Your Hair Down

After many hours, and then wearing the same hair style day in day out, it may lead to tension headaches or your scalp may feel tight, dry or tender. When you are done for the day, take your hair down and massage your scalp to release the tension of where the bobby pins may have been resting, and release the stress of how tightly your bun was pulled. The best time to do this is right after letting your hair down, and then in the shower with warm water.

Loosen Up Your Muscles AFTER Dance

Source for Photo

We often times focus on preparing our muscles before dancing, but it is equally as important to help our muscles "relax" and "calm down" at the end of the day. Roll you feet on a tennis ball, or roll your hamstrings, IT-bands and lower backs with a foam roller. These are fantastic ways to prevent muscle knots, and remove the stress that built up during classes throughout the day. Note: Always stretch after using a foam roller, and try to use it 2-3 times a day. Also simply massaging an area with your hands will also keeps muscles loosened up.

Lotions & Accessories: Know Your Stuff

Sweating is a great thing! It opens your pores, it is our bodies natural way of removing toxins, but leaving sweat on you for too long (or all day) can cause miliaria, which looks and feels like a heat rash. After lots of dancing, wipe off your sweat and care for your skin as it cools down. I am a huge fan of tossing refreshing wipes in my bag, and using Aveeno products to keep my skin moisturized. That way, throughout the day as my skin is constantly changing, I'm having my sweat glands work for me, instead of against me. Also, dancers need to be aware that "pain-relieving" creams (the ones that feel cold and hot) are really only skin deep, though they feel as if they are penetrating the muscles. One option may be arnica.

Pointe Magazine wrote about arnica, "This homeopathic remedy is used to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation and heal wounds, including bruises and sprains. While there hasn’t been much clinical research on the herb, Craig Westin [orthopedic surgeon at the Chicago Center for Orthopedics at Weiss Memorial Hospital and medical director for The Joffrey Ballet] says that arnica works by causing the blood vessels to dilate, increasing circulation, which helps speed recovery."

Snacks, Snacks, Snacks!

Photo by: Levi Brown

Dancers: Eat Often! To keep your energy up throughout the day, you have to eat! Eat before ballet, after ballet, before Modern, after Modern, and any little breaks you get. Eat small, quick snacks that are full of protein, around 200 calories (which keeps your metabolism active!), and snacks that include fiber (which helps your body sustain energy since it digests slowly). Take with you: Apple slices, Almonds, Banana, Yogurt, Protein bars, a sandwich for lunch (with turkey, tuna, or some kind of meat), peanut butter, and cheese squares. These are quick to eat, easy to carry around, and carry within them a lot of power for dancers. We also have one cup of coffee in the morning, and take a multivitamin. Also, remember dancers need to stay hydrated. Water is always a favorite, but if you're feeling particularly weak, drink Gatorade or a sports drink to replenish electrolytes.

Find Stillness

Throughout the day, our bodies will move, dart, glide, shoot, run, this way and that. Between classes, you can usually find us laying down on a hard floor. The pose is called shavasana. The pose in yoga allows the body to regroup and collect itself. If you simply just lay on a hard floor, making sure your spine is aligned, you will feel your body making adjustments to bring you back to true alignment. It also collects whatever lose energy is still flowing your muscles and brings you to a quiet place. This helps refresh your body so that it's ready to go again for the next class.

Ice, Ice, Baby

Remember: Ice stops swelling; Heat relaxes muscles. Know your bodies tendencies, where it swells, where it tenses. As dancers, you cannot go wrong with ice. You can take anti-inflammatories, should you need extra pain relief, but ice works miracles, and it doesn't require your body to internally process medication.

Pamper

Source for Photo: One Charming Party

Invest in yourself.

Go get a foot massage or full-body massage (we get at least 4 a year, spread out). Go get a facial, or have someone massage your scalp while washing your hair (salons do this before cutting your hair.) Know your body so well, that you know when it needs pampering and then don't be afraid to spend the money. Our bodies are where we live and as dancers, where we work. It is important that we treat it correctly and listen to our body. Eat enough, sleep enough, tend to its areas of weakness, pay attention to where it tenses, know how to release the tension.

Dancing every day is a beautiful thing. But it takes work preparing and maintaining our bodies before, during and after, so that we can be the best dancer we can be, every day.

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